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Holyrood to recognise the value of CAB Network

MSPs from across Scotland will recognise the impact of the Citizens Advice network in Scotland in a special members’ business debate at Holyrood today.

Lodged by Christine Graham, MSP for Constituency Member for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, the debate will recognise the value of the Citizens Advice network with:

  • Over £170 million unlocked for people in 2019/20;
  • A £16 return for every £1 invested in core advice;
  • Over 188,000 people helped.

During the coronavirus crisis, CABs across the country have transitioned to remote working, ensuring that people still get vital advice through email, the phone or webchat, with CABs still open for face to face advice in essential cases for vulnerable clients.

Speaking ahead of today’s debate, CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said:

“We are extremely proud of our network and of what it does for people across Scotland.

“To deliver £16 for every £1 invested is a fabulous rate of return which is making a real difference in communities across Scotland.

“We’re here to help everyone, from employment and housing advice, to social security and consumer issues. Many of the people who turn to us for help are in really desperate situations, on the verge of being made homeless or drowning in debt. With a footprint in every community people know they can turn to us for help, and we’ve been a trusted provider of advice for 80 years now.

“During the Covid 19 pandemic the CAB network didn’t miss a beat, transitioning to remote work and continuing to provide free, confidential and impartial advice. We know the aftermath of the pandemic is going to be incredibly challenging for people, with the biggest shock to our economy in living memory. We’ll be there to help, just as we have been for over 80 years.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Graham said:

“I’m delighted to be able to lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the incredible work done by the Citizens Advice network in Scotland. In my previous career as a solicitor I used to volunteer with my local CAB to do an evening surgery and it never fails to amaze me the degree to which the service is powered by volunteers – people making a difference in their own communities, that’s what it’s all about.

“Many MSPs implicitly understand the work that CABs do, often referring our own casework to get people further help. That’s one reason why my motion gained cross party support across parliament.

“As Scotland grapples with the aftermath of coronavirus, the Citizens Advice network will be an essential resource for people who need help.”


The motion for debate is available here. 

Further background on the Citizens Advice network

The CAB network was first established in September 1939, just after the outbreak of the Second World War, when it was felt that people needed a free, confidential and independent source of advice on issues like rationing.

As the war progressed people increasingly needed help with housing and health issues, and after the war the service gradually became a permanent feature as the new welfare state was introduced and people needed help to navigate it.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), the 59 member Citizen Advice Bureaux (CAB) and the Extra Help Unit based (EHU), form Scotland’s largest independent advice network.

The EHU has a team of caseworkers based in Glasgow who assist vulnerable consumers from across Scotland, England and Wales with energy and postal service complaints.

In 2019-20 the Citizens Advice Service network (CAB & EHU), for clients resident in Scotland:

  • Advised over 188,000 clients
  • Dealt with almost 675,000 advice issues
  • Assisted clients to complete over 53,000 benefit forms
  • Recorded over 4,700 tribunal and court outcomes; 90% of the cases were won/upheld
  • Helped clients gain over £170 million
  • The self-help website Advice in Scotland received approximately 4.1 million page views
  • For every £1 funded to cover the CAB core advice service, £16 is returned to the community in client gains.
  • Of the volunteers whose journey is known, 49% of those leaving the service go on to paid employment or further education.
  • Over 2,300 volunteers contributed more than 750,000 hours of their time in 2019-20, the monetary value of this contribution amounts to over £11M.*

* Volunteer hours (approx. 7 per week, over 46 weeks) calculated using ONS 2019 hourly rate of £14.80 (to reflect volunteer skills and knowledge); multiplied by CAB volunteer hours.